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HAWKS warn Ajay Gupta's protectors they face charges of aiding and abetting a fugitive

Feb 16, 2018
HAWKS warn Ajay Gupta's protectors they face charges of aiding and abetting a fugitive

South Africa's Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, also called the HAWKS, have appealed to one of the controversial Gupta brothers, Ajay Gupta, to hand himself over and warned those protecting him that they will face charges of aiding and abetting a fugitive.

This is after eight suspects linked to alleged corruption at the Estina Dairy Farm Project in the Free State appeared briefly at the Bloemfontein Regional Court on Thursday on charges of fraud, theft of state funds and money laundering.

The eight are Peter Thabethe (53), – the Head of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in the Free State, Sylvia Dlamini (46), Chief of Staff in the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Dr Takisi Masiteng (47), General Manager for District Services in the Department of Agriculture, Varun Gupta (31), Ashu Chalwa (46), a Director at Oakbay Investments, Ronica Regavan (40), a Director Oakbay Investments, Nazeem Howa (55), former Director of Oakbay Investments and Kamal Vasram (38), former Director of Estina (PTY) Ltd were released on bail ranging from R10, 000 to R200,000 with strict conditions.

"The bail conditions include reporting to their local police station twice a week, seizure of their passports, reporting to the investigating officer when leaving the area of jurisdiction and not to interfere with any state witnesses," said HAWKS spokesperson,  Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi.

"On Wednesday the Hawks’ Serious Corruption Crime Unit assisted by the SAPS National Intervention Unit (NIU) executed warrants of arrests in Gauteng and the Free State which led to five arrests.

"On Thursday morning, three suspects; Vasrum, Howa and Regavan handed themselves over to the investigating team in Bloemfontein."

He said that meanwhile, the Hawks are looking for Ajay Gupta for a separate investigation.

"Ajay's lawyers were informed he is now regarded as fugitive since they failed to hand him over. It is understood that he has personal protectors and they are being warned to either hand him over or they might face charges of directly aiding and abetting the fugitive," Brigadier Mulaudzi added.

"Therefore, the Hawks are making a public plea to Ajay Gupta to hand himself over to avoid embarrassment."

The eight suspects are expected to appear again at the same on 17 August 2018.

Gupta cash-cow

The Guptas are accused of benefitting from the so-called State Capture and exerting undue influence on State business through their links with President Jacob Zuma.

The family's also been implicated in the theft of millions of rand from the Estina Dairy Farm Project, which is situated at the remote agricultural town of Vrede, and was established to benefit black farmers, but apparently became a cash cow for the Gupta family through alleged corrupt dealings with senior politicians in the Free State.

It is alleged that the Free State Department of Agriculture handed the farm to the Gupta family in 2013 on a 99-year lease, a questionable transaction that saw millions of rands being received by the Guptas and their allies.

In the same year, the department, under then MEC Mosebenzi Zwane and current mineral resources minister, controversially paid around R220 million to the Guptas, R30 million of which allegedly ended up funding the family’s lavish wedding in Sun City in the North West in 2013.

Around R220 million in assets linked to the Guptas have now been seized by the National Prosecuting Authority's Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU), which took control of the multi-million Estina dairy farm in January.